Veganism is a way of living that aims to minimize animal exploitation and cruelty.
Therefore, vegans avoid eating animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy, as well as foods that are made from them.
However, many people wonder whether this extends to foods made from insects, such as honey.
This article discusses whether honey is vegan.
Honey is a somewhat controversial food among vegans.
Unlike overt animal foods like meat, eggs, and dairy, foods from insects aren’t always grouped into the vegan category.
In fact, some vegans who eat an otherwise entirely plant-based diet may opt to include honey in their diet.
That said, the majority of vegans view honey as non-vegan and avoid eating it for several reasons, which are explained below.
Honey results from the exploitation of bees
Most vegans see no difference between bee farming and other forms of animal farming.
To optimize profits, many commercial bee farmers employ practices that are unethical by vegan standards.
These include clipping the wings of queen bees to prevent them from fleeing the hive, replacing harvested honey with nutritionally inferior sugar syrups, and killing entire colonies to prevent the spread of disease, instead of giving them medicine (
Vegans opt to take a stand against these exploitative practices by avoiding honey and other bee products, including honeycomb, bee pollen, royal jelly, or propolis.
Honey farming may harm bee health
Many vegans avoid eating honey because commercial honey farming may also harm the health of bees.
Honey’s main function is to provide bees with carbohydrates and other essential nutrients like amino acids, antioxidants, and natural antibiotics.
Bees store honey and consume it over the winter months when honey production dwindles. It provides them with energy, helping them stay healthy and survive during cold weather (
These supplemental carbs are meant to prevent the bees from starving during the colder months and are sometimes given to bees in the spring to encourage colony growth and stimulate the flow of nectar.
However, sucrose and HFCS do not provide bees the many beneficial nutrients found in honey (
What’s more, there’s evidence that these sweeteners harm the bees’ immune systems and can cause genetic changes that reduce their defenses against pesticides. Both of these effects can ultimately damage a beehive (
Honey farming may contribute to declining bee populations
Bees play an essential role in the ecosystem.
They help transfer pollen and seeds between a wide variety of flowers. Without bees, many plants would be unable to reproduce, causing a dramatic drop in crop yields and plant diversity (
Unfortunately, bee populations are declining worldwide. Studies show that commercial beekeeping practices may contribute to part of this decline.
Other common beekeeping practices, such as artificial insemination, manually replacing a hive’s queen, or even offering treatment against disease, can further interfere with natural selection and reduce the bees’ genetic diversity.
Such practices are thought to lower a beehive’s ability to adapt and defend itself against the local environment, potentially leading to a decline in bee populations (
Summary Vegans avoid eating honey to take a stand against bee exploitation and farming practices that are thought to harm bee health and reduce bee populations.
Several plant-based options can replace honey. The most common vegan alternatives are:
- Maple syrup. Made from the sap of the maple tree, maple syrup contains several vitamins and minerals and up to 24 protective antioxidants (10).
- Blackstrap molasses. A thick, dark-brown liquid obtained from boiling sugar cane juice three times. Blackstrap molasses is rich in iron and calcium (
- Coconut nectar. A syrup made from the sap and flowers of the coconut palm. It contains some nutrients, such as vitamin A and calcium (
- Barley malt syrup. A sweetener made from sprouted barley. This syrup has a golden color and flavor similar to that of blackstrap molasses.
- Brown rice syrup. Also known as rice or malt syrup, brown rice syrup is made by exposing brown rice to enzymes that break down the starch found in rice to produce a thick, dark-colored syrup.
- Date syrup. A caramel-colored sweetener made by extracting the liquid portion of cooked dates. You can also make it at home by blending boiled dates with water.
- Bee Free Honee. A branded sweetener made from apples, sugar, and fresh lemon juice. It’s advertised as a vegan alternative that looks and feels like honey.
Summary You can find many vegan alternatives to honey in a variety of flavors, textures, and colors. However, all are rich in sugar, so you should consume them in moderation.
Vegans try to avoid or minimize all forms of animal exploitation, including that of bees. As a result, most vegans exclude honey from their diets.
Some vegans also avoid honey to take a stand against beekeeping practices that can harm bee health and contribute to their declining populations worldwide.
Instead, vegans can replace honey with a number of plant-based sweeteners, ranging from maple syrup to blackstrap molasses and coconut nectar. Be sure to consume all these varieties in moderation, as they contain lots of added sugar.